Thirty years ago today, Space Shuttle Challenger exploded upon takeoff due to an o-ring failure, killing its seven-member crew. On board was Christa McAuliffe, a social studies teacher from New Hampshire, who was the first civilian to fly into space. Schoolchildren across the country were tuned in to the launch and witnessed the disaster live on television.
Following the disaster, President Ronald Reagan addressed the nation in lieu of his planned State of the Union address. Reagan praised Challenger's crew for their bravery, and assured Americans that the country's space program would continue in spite of this tragedy.
Watch his speech here:
The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ``slipped the surly bonds of earth'' to ``touch the face of God.''
A beautiful statement by a strong leader in the face of an unspeakable tragedy. May they rest in peace.